Join us Thursday for our Live Tweet of the classic 1958 western co-starring Van Heflin, Kathryn Grant and James Darren.
On July 11, 1931, Tab Hunter, the hunky ‘50s heartthrob who rode tall in some memorable westerns, was born in New York. To celebrate what would have been the late actor’s 88th birthday, Turner Classic Movies will air on Thursday four movies showcasing the actor once known to fans as “The Sigh Guy.” And we’ll be Live Tweeting one of our favorites: Gunman’s Walk, which kicks off at 9:45 pm ET/8:45 pm on TCM.
As we noted in our 2018 roundup of Hunter’s westerns: “Hunter gave one of his finest performances in director Phil Karlson’s edgy drama set during the period when the Wild West was becoming civilized, and not everyone was happy about the change. Autocratic rancher Lee Hackett (Van Heflin) loves his mild-mannered son Davey (James Darren), but, truth to tell, he’s a mite more partial to his other boy, Ed (Hunter), a tightly wound macho man who wants to be just like (and maybe tougher than) dear old Dad.”
In 2016, Hunter — an accomplished horseman on and off the screen — told us that Gunman’s Walk was one of three films that gave him the opportunity to ride his own steed.
“Her name was Swizzlestick,” Hunter said. “She was a Green Jumper Champion at the Del Mar National Horse Show. What I did was, I just threw a stock saddle on her and used her in The Burning Hills. It was a Louis L’Amour novel that was adapted into a screenplay for a movie I did with Natalie Wood. And you know what? Swizz turned out to be a better movie horse than she was a show horse. I mean, you hit her with the lights and all of that attention went to her head. She was like a glamour girl. It made me laugh. I used her again in They Came to Cordura, the movie I made with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth, and in Gunman’s Walk. She had a lot of work in that film.”
Gunman’s Walk “was one of the best experiences I ever had,” Hunter added. “It was written by Frank Nugent, who also wrote The Quiet Man for John Wayne and John Ford. And it was directed by Phil Karlson, who was so terrific and so underrated.
“The funny thing is, Warner Bros. lent me out to Columbia [Pictures] to make that picture. And I’d heard terrible stories about Harry Cohn, who was head of Columbia at that time. When I went in to meet with him, the first thing he said was, ‘So you’re Tab Hunter.’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And he said, ‘You know, Robert Wagner wants to do this role.’ And I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Then you should get Bob Wagner.’ And I turned around to leave. He said, ‘Wait a minute! Wait a minute!’ And we wound up talking about the script for a half-hour. That was the only time I ever met him.
“And then I did the movie.”
Look for the hashtag #ciTCMWesterns when we Live Tweet Gunman’s Walk during its 9:45 pm ET Thursday presentation on TCM.